Country Israel


Ancient kingdom and modern nation, in SW Asia, on the Mediterranean Sea. It is bounded by Lebanon on the N, Syria on the NE, Jordan on the E, and Egypt on the SW. In general the area is the same as ancient Canaan, whose boundaries were not fixed, but generally refer to the land W of the Jordan River. Modern Israel occupies part of this area with boundaries that are the result of a UN partition, and multiple wars with Arab neighbors. Israel holds the Golan Heights from Syria as a result of wars in 1967 and 1973, as well as the Gaza Strip (originally Egyptian) and the Palestinian West Bank (originally Jordanian). Egypt and Jordan have both renounced their claims to these places in favor of the Palestinian Authority. The region is also called the Holy Land because in it are places sacred to Jews, Christians, and Muslims.

Circa 1000 b.c. the Hebrews, nomadic infiltrators into Philistine ruled Canaan, established an independent kingdom with Saul as king. The kingdom expand ed under David and Solomon, but a revolt against the latter c. 930 b.c. resulted in the establishment of the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah, with its capital at Jerusalem. From then until c. 725 b.c. both kingdoms were threatened by powerful neighbors to the east and west. Circa 720 b.c. Israel was conquered by Assyria and its inhabitants dispersed, and in 586 b.c. Judah was overcome by the king of Babylon, after having been at times under Assyrian and Egyptian domination. After the Persians defeated the Babylonians, in 539 b.c. Cyrus the Great of Persia allowed the Jews to return from the Babylonian Captivity. Other conquerors followed, but in 142 b.c. the attempt of Antiochus IV of Syria, king of the Seleucid Empire, to Hellenize Israel brought on revolt under the leadership of the Maccabees, a Jewish family. A new state resulted that lasted until 64 b.c., when Rome conquered the region, following disruption caused by conflict between the Sadducees and the Pharisees, two political and religious sects with greatly differing beliefs. The Jews of the Roman province of Judaea revolted between a.d. 66 and 70. Their struggle resulted in the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple and the dispersal of many of the people. The Jews rose again between 132 and 135, during a Parthian invasion of the Roman Empire, but the revolt was suppressed and the ancient kingdom in effect ceased to exist. The Roman emperor Hadrian renamed the province Syria Palaestina.

Modern Israel is the first Jewish national state since that time, and was the result of growing pressure for a Jewish homeland , expressed through the Zionist movement in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and intensified by the Nazi persecution of the Jews everywhere before and during World War II. In 1947 the United Nations adopted a plan to divide the British Mand ate of Palestine into a Jewish state, an Arab state, and an international zone that included Jerusalem. On May 14, 1948, the state of Israel was proclaimed, and Lebanon, Syria, Transjordan, Egypt, and Iraq invaded Israel. The Israelis fought them off, and in late 1949 a truce was signed. The Arabs continued to refuse to accept Israel’s existence and threatened invasion again. As a result on October 19, 1956, Israel attacked Egypt at the same time that France and Great Britain invaded the Suez Canal area, because Egypt had nationalized the waterway. Under pressure from the United States, the USSR, and the United Nations, Israel withdrew in November from the Sinai and the Gaza Strip, which it had taken. In 1967 Israel again acted first and on June 5 attacked Egypt, Syria, and Jordan in the Six-Day War. Israel again occupied the Sinai and the Gaza Strip, as well as the West Bank and the Golan Heights of southwestern Syria. In an attempt to retake the Sinai and the Golan Heights, Egypt and Syria attacked Israel on October 6, 1973. Egypt had some initial success in the Sinai, crossing the Suez Canal and creating a bridgehead, before an Israeli counterattack threatened to envelope the Egyptian forces. A ceasefire on October 23, 1973, paved the way for constructive negotiations.

An Arab-Israeli peace conference began on December 23. A United Nations buffer zone was established in the Sinai, and Israel evacuated some captured Syrian territory, but not the Golan Heights. No further peace moves occurred until President Anwar al-Sadat of Egypt approached Israel and President Jimmy Carter of the United States met with him and Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin in September 1978. An agreement was reached for Israel to return the Sinai gradually and to take steps toward Arab autonomy in Israeli-controlled territory. By these Camp David accords the Sinai evacuation proceeded, but by early 1982 no progress had been made toward Arab autonomy. In addition, on December 14, 1981, Israel announced that it was annexing the Golan Heights. To the new Israel have come Jews from all over the world, adding to the population of Jews and Arabs native to Israel and Palestine. Most of the Palestinian Arabs resent Jewish rule, and Israel is surrounded by hostile Arab states and opposed by the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). In 1982 Israel invaded Lebanon and besieged Beirut until the P.L.O. agreed to leave it. Little otherwise was accomplished except some amelioration, under the Israeli occupation, of Lebanon’s perennial civil war. The late 1982 massacre of Palestinian refugees by right-wing Lebanese has clouded Israel’s role in the area, and in 1985, Israel withdrew its forces to a six-mile buffer zone on the Lebanese border.

Begin was reelected in 1981, but resigned in 1983 in favor of Yitzhak Shamir. A draw in the 1994 election led to a joint prime ministership by Shamir and Shimon Peres of the Labor Party. In 1988, Shamir was elected sole prime minister. The late 1998s saw increased Jewish immigration from the Soviet Union and Ethiopia, increasing the pressures on the state for jobs and housing. In 1987, the Intifada uprisings began in the occupied Palestinian territories. During the 1991 Gulf War, Iraq fired Scud missiles at Israeli cities. In 1991, there were peace talks between Israel, Syria, Lebanon, and a joint Jordanian-Palestinian delegation. In 1992, Yitzak Rabin of the Labor Party became prime minister. In 1993, Israel and the PLO signed an agreement providing for joint recognition and for limited Palestinian self-rule in the Gaza Strip and Jericho. In 1994, a peace treaty was signed with Jordan. In 1995, Israel and the PLO agreed on a transition to Palestinian self-rule in most of the West Bank.

Rabin was assassinated by a right-wing Israeli extremist in late 1995, and Peres became prime minister. In 1996, Israel was hit by a series of suicide bombings in its cities and rocket attacks from Shiite Muslim bases in S Lebanon. Israel retaliated with attacks on the Labanese bases and a blockade of Beirut. In the 1996 elections, Likud cand idate Benjamin Netanyahu became prime minister. Some land was put under Palestinian authority, but continued violence stalled the process. In 1999, the Labor cand idate, Ehud Barak took power. Barak and Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat signed a border agreement. In 2000, Israel withdrew from the Labanese buffer zone.

In 2000, there was renewed violence as a result of a September visit by Ariel Sharon to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. In 2001 new elections brought Sharon to power as prime minister. In 2002 Sharon ordered the reoccupation of the West Bank to keep order and prevent more attacks. In 2003 Sharon’s government accepted a limited version of the internationally supported “road map for peace.” The attacks on Israelis continued and Israel attacked a terrorist training camp in Syria.

Israel started building a 400-mile fence as a security barrier between Israel and the West Bank. The International Court of Justice has termed its construction illegal under international law because it was being constructed on Palestinian land s, and Israeli courts have ordered the wall to be rerouted in certain areas because of the hardship it would cause Palestinians. Israel withdrew most of its forces from the Gaza Strip in 2005, and had plans to aband on Jewish settler communities in Gaza and some in the West Bank as well. These plans created opposition from the conservative parties in Sharon’s coalition.

Israel Images


Israel: Top Cities

Jerusalem 714,000 Jerusalem District 35.23 x 31.78 Asia/Jerusalem
West Jerusalem 400,000 Jerusalem District 35.22 x 31.78 Asia/Jerusalem
Haifa 267,300 Haifa District 34.99 x 32.82 Asia/Jerusalem
Tel Aviv 250,000 Tel Aviv 34.77 x 32.07 Asia/Jerusalem
Ashdod 224,656 Southern District 34.65 x 31.82 Asia/Jerusalem
Rishon LeZiyyon 220,492 Central District 34.80 x 31.96 Asia/Jerusalem
Petah Tikva 188,900 Central District 34.89 x 32.09 Asia/Jerusalem
Beersheba 186,600 Southern District 34.79 x 31.25 Asia/Jerusalem
Netanya 171,676 Central District 34.86 x 32.33 Asia/Jerusalem
Holon 165,787 Tel Aviv 34.77 x 32.01 Asia/Jerusalem
Bene Beraq 144,663 Tel Aviv 34.84 x 32.09 Asia/Jerusalem
Bat Yam 128,979 Tel Aviv 34.75 x 32.02 Asia/Jerusalem
Ramat Gan 128,095 Tel Aviv 34.81 x 32.08 Asia/Jerusalem
Ashqelon 105,995 Southern District 34.58 x 31.67 Asia/Jerusalem
Yafo 100,000 Tel Aviv 34.75 x 32.05 Asia/Jerusalem
Herzliyya 83,600 Tel Aviv 34.84 x 32.17 Asia/Jerusalem
Kfar Saba 80,773 Central District 34.91 x 32.18 Asia/Jerusalem
Hadera 75,854 Haifa District 34.92 x 32.44 Asia/Jerusalem
Bet Shemesh 67,100 Jerusalem District 35.00 x 31.75 Asia/Jerusalem
Lod 66,589 Central District 34.90 x 31.95 Asia/Jerusalem
Nazareth 64,800 Northern District 35.30 x 32.70 Asia/Jerusalem
Ramla 63,860 Central District 34.87 x 31.93 Asia/Jerusalem
Nahariyya 50,273 Northern District 35.09 x 33.01 Asia/Jerusalem
Qiryat Ata 48,966 Haifa District 35.11 x 32.80 Asia/Jerusalem
Giv`atayim 48,000 Tel Aviv 34.81 x 32.07 Asia/Jerusalem
Qiryat Gat 47,450 Southern District 34.77 x 31.60 Asia/Jerusalem
`Akko 45,603 Northern District 35.07 x 32.92 Asia/Jerusalem
Eilat 45,588 Southern District 34.95 x 29.56 Asia/Jerusalem
Karmi'el 44,382 Northern District 35.30 x 32.92 Asia/Jerusalem
Hod HaSharon 43,185 Central District 34.89 x 32.15 Asia/Jerusalem